Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures
> RANCHO CAMULOS

The Home of Ramona.


WEBMASTER'S NOTE.

We know nothing of the author except that he also wrote "The Missions of Nueva California" and "Old Mission Stories of California." The reader might note his use of certain British spellings (centre, civilised).

Looking past his assumptions (chiefly the notion of Camulos for the setting of H.H. Jackson's 1884 novel even though, as he acknowledges, Camulos "is not once mentioned by name in the story") — and his Victorian prejudices (the forthright Alessandro being a "rare ... exception to the general run of mission Indian") — Carter's story of Camulos is of some historical interest.

He describes the ranch as it existed in 1900, and he offers some confusing information about the Southern Pacific depot at Camulos. He appears to say the little depot, probably erected north of the existing highway around the time the tracks came through in 1887, was still standing, but by this time served solely as a shipping point for produce, and that the preferred stop for Camulos visitors was Piru because of its modest accommodations. His comment about the frequency of train service is instructive, as is his description of Ignacio Del Valle's burial site.

Camulos Depot
Southern Pacific depot at Camulos. (For illustration only; not from Carter's "By-Ways.") Click to enlarge.

Coming back around to the author's assumptions and prejudices, his story gives us a fairly clear picture of what they were in his day.

Carter's "By-Ways" is unillustrated. It published in 1902; a second edition was published in 1911 with an added chapter.

Author's Preface.

A glance at the table of contents of this little collection might lead one to think an undue proportion of the titles pertained to missions, and the towns or villages growing out of them. That a large number relate to those religious establishments is true, five of the articles being descriptive of towns of which each one had an old Franciscan mission for a nucleus; but that the space given to the missions is unduly disproportionate may be questioned. When we recollect that the missions were the earliest settlements in California, and that of the twenty-one religious establishments, fully three-fourths of the number grew eventually into towns of more or less importance some of them becoming cities among the largest in the state the number taken for description may not, after all, be too great. Yet the writer has selected those smaller and less well known settlements some hardly aspiring to the dignity of villages as retaining more of the Spanish atmosphere of former days.

The places described in the following pages are but a few from among the many as interesting which might be selected. Should these little descriptions induce the traveler to visit some of the by-ways of this section of our country, the writer will have attained his object.

C.F.C.

Waterbury, Connecticut, October 25, 1902.


The Home of Ramona.

Probably no place of interest in Southern California, outside of the cities and larger towns, is better known by name to every traveler in the state than is Camulos; due entirely to Mrs. Jackson's making use of the rancho as the setting for her well-known story. The history of Ramona, as told by her creator, appeals to three classes of readers: to the general novel reader, who takes up every new story as it comes from the press; to the admirer of Mrs. Jackson, for her writings, and for the interest and sympathy she displayed for the Indian and his wrongs, and for her endeavors to do all in her power to ameliorate his condition; and to the traveler or dweller in the state, who has become fascinated by the early history of California, and the local atmosphere of those days which has fled from the land, leaving but a vestige, here and there, to show us what the early Spanish California life was like. These three classes of readers of Ramona make a large number who are familiar with the story and with the musical name of her childhood and girlhood home.

Although Camulos is so well known by name, it is, rather singularly, visited by a relatively small number of tourists in the state. Singularly, because no place is more easily accessible, or visited with less trouble and fatigue. But Camulos, while on the railroad running from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara, and having a station close by the settlement, seems to be hardly enough of an attraction in itself, alone, to induce the average tourist to break his trip to Santa Barbara in order to visit an old Spanish rancho. A further reason may be due to the fact that, according to the present schedule, there is a long wait between the morning and afternoon trains passing through the place — an interval of six or seven hours, as one may be bound to Santa Barbara or to Los Angeles. As the rancho can be seen in every detail open to the public in an hour's time, few persons seem to care to use the better part of a day for a visit to it. Then, in addition, the traveler must take a luncheon with him, or go without a midday meal; for there are no accommodations for refreshments. The station is intended solely as a shipping point for the products of the rancho.

Perhaps the most satisfactory way to pay a visit to Camulos is to leave the train at Piru City, two miles to the west; a little place, city only in name, but possessing a good country hotel, where a fair dinner may be had. Afterward, a short drive of two miles, through the valley on land belonging to the Camulos estate, through which run both road and railroad, brings one to the rancho.

The Santa Clara is a fertile, well watered valley, reaching from the mountains, east of Camulos, westward to Ventura, and the ocean, over thirty miles away. Hills, in well-ordered ranks, border it on either side, breaking away gradually into smaller and lower masses as they range off into the west and approach the sea. These hills, in the neighborhood of Camulos and Piru, have little forest vegetation, and are rather desolate in the bright light of midday; but, later in the afternoon, when they are cast into shade by the declining sun, they become great masses of purple-grey, appearing twice as high as they in reality are. During these later hours of the day, and particularly at sunset, Nature here, as at every other spot in Southern California, displays her power in coloring the landscape with all the wonderful tints of her palette.

Through the middle of the valley extends a line of bright, vivid green, made up of the grain fields, and clumps and rows of trees, tall, straight, needle-like eucalypti, great, rounded black walnuts, and bright yellow-green cottonwoods — these mark the course of the Santa Clara River, a never failing source for the vegetation along its borders, even in the dryest years : it is the life of the rancho, which is laid out along its path. During the last few minutes of the drive, one has in view a cross, planted high on the top of a hill, and showing brightly white against the deep blue sky behind it. It is a plain wooden cross, one of a number which were put up years ago, as a sign to the weary wayfarer, when traveling was not what it is now, that he was on the right road; or, should he be so favored as to be permitted to enjoy the hospitality of the family at the rancho, (and every traveler in those early days was welcomed at mission, rancho, or any other settlement that night might find him near), that here were rest and refreshment until the morning. " There they stood, summer and winter, rain and shine, solemn, outstretched arms; " this one near the road being a landmark to all journeying through the valley either by the railroad or driving. Another cross may be seen high up on the other side of the river.

The graveyard of the Del Valle family lies a few rods beyond the little settlement, and, perched on the side of a gentle slope and with its square white vault in the centre of the enclosure, and the numerous little white fences surrounding the separate plots, it forms a prominent point in the view. This burial place is used by the Catholics in this part of the country, as there is none other near. In the mausoleum in the centre is the grave of Ignacio Del Valle, the son of Don Antonio. A large white cross is over his tomb, on which is the following inscription:

Ygnacio del Valle
Murió el dia 30 Marzo
1880
á la
EDAD
71

And a little more, below, too small to read from outside the enclosure. Presumably the grave of Don Antonio, the first of the family to come to Camulos, is here also, but it is not distinguishable from outside the locked gate of the fence surrounding the graveyard.

Crossing the railroad track for the third time since leaving Piru, the little station is passed, affording the traveler a sight of one of the chief products of the rancho in a multitude of boxes of oranges piled upon the platform, awaiting shipment. Just beyond, a few rods, the barns and out-buildings are passed, and then the house itself, built forty-five years ago, the home of the Del Valle family, is close at hand.

To one unacquainted with the Spanish-Moorish style of architecture of Mexico and California, the first sight of the Camulos building is disappointing: long rows of adobe walls, somewhat forbidding in their plain severity, with only windows and doors to relieve the blank white walls, forming" three sides of a square. But one has only to pass through the entrance into the patio within to find an entire change. Here the three sides of the court are enclosed by the house, with its wide verandas; and here, in this enclosure, full of flowers and vines and a few trees, with a fountain in the centre, and on these verandas, as Mrs. Jackson says, "the greater part of the family life went on in them. Nobody stayed inside the walls, except when it was necessary. All the kitchen work, except the actual cooking, was done here, in front of the kitchen doors and windows. Babies slept, were washed, sat in the dirt, and played on the veranda. The women said their prayers, took their naps, and wove their lace there . . . . The herdsmen and shepherds smoked there, lounged there, trained their dogs there; there the young made love, and the old dozed. "Such it was, as told in the story, and such it is, to-day. One could not wish for a more delightful place to work in or to rest in; one could hardly imagine a pleasanter spot than this.

But Camulos offers an even more charming bit: the south veranda, running across the whole length of the house on the south side. Here is another garden, almost an enclosed patio, so close and dense are the orchards of orange and olive on all sides. Here are more plants, thickly sown and in full bloom — roses, geraniums, lilies, cacti, vines, here, there and everywhere. A short distance from the house is the chapel, a quaint little room, fitted up with an altar and several figures of saints, which were brought from Spain for this little place of worship. Here is shown the very altar cloth with the neatly mended rent in the embroidery work, of which Mrs. Jackson made so realistic a use in her novel. Here prayers are said every day by the household, and once a month a priest visits the ranch and holds service with mass. Close by the chapel, hanging in a wooden frame, are three bells, once belonging to Mission San Fernando and Mission San Buenaventura, and which are still used in the daily life of the rancho. South from the chapel, a little way, is a fountain, larger than the one in the patio, on the margin of which are a number of round, hollowed-out stones. These, with infinite care and patience, were made by the Indians, years, maybe centuries, ago, and were used for grinding their corn or acorns. Continuing on from the fountain is a path through a grape arbor leading to the brook, so often mentioned in the story; and a short way farther is the river.

The south veranda "along the front was a delightsome place. It must have been eighty feet long, at least, for the doors of five large rooms opened on it. The two westernmost rooms had been added on, and made four steps higher than the others; which gave to that end of the veranda the look of a balcony, or loggia." Father Salvierderra's room was at this raised end of the veranda; that of Ramona at the other end, but level with the rest of the Louse.

Here, as well as on the veranda of the court, was, and is, lived much of the life of the family; and when one has such a lovely semi-tropic garden and view before his eyes as are here, it is no wonder that everybody should be attracted to this veranda commanding them. "Between the veranda and the river meadows, out on which it looked, all w-as garden, orange grove, and almond orchard; the orange grove always green, never without snowy bloom or golden fruit; the garden never without flowers, summer or winter; and the almond orchard, in early spring, a fluttering canopy of pink and white petals, which, seen from the hills on the opposite side of the river, looked as if rosy sunrise clouds had fallen, and become tangled in the tree-tops. On either hand stretched away other orchards, — peach, apricot, pear, apple, pomegranate; and beyond these, vineyards. Nothing was to be seen but verdure or bloom or fruit, at whatever time of year you sat on the Señora's south veranda." Here, where roses and all flowering plants grow with the rank luxuriance of weeds, where the air is full of the odor of lilies and geraniums, and the orange blossoms of the orchards surrounding the garden, where everything is bathed in the warm glowing sunshine, life takes on a new meaning. Here, where there is scarcely a day in the year's round that one cannot be out of doors with comfort — in the sunshine, if the weather be cool; in the shade of the verandas or under the trees during the hot hours of midsummer — Nature once more asserts her sway over us, and wins us back, making us discontented and ashamed of the artificial life of society at large. A peaceful, happy life is that led at such a place as Camulos; a life which is reflected with most perfect truth in the story of Ramona.

Ramona, Mrs. Jackson's greatest and best known work, was the fruit of her interest in, and labors for, the California Indians. Appointed one of the two members of the Indian commission to report on the condition of the mission Indians, she visited the various reservations and Indian villages, and learned their present condition, their treatment by the Government agents, the wrongs, past and present, suffered by them at the hands of settlers, by whom, in many instances, they were robbed of their lands, and forced to migrate to far distant spots, rugged and barren in great part, and which, consequently, appealed but little to the invading Americans.

The result of this investigation by Mrs. Jackson and her colleague, Mr. Abbott Kinney, are embodied in their report dated Colorado Springs, July 13, 1883, and which has been published, as an appendix, to Mrs. Jackson's Century of Dishonor.

While in Los Angeles, Mrs. Jackson was the guest of Don Antonio F. Coronel, a prominent public man and official (having been elected mayor of Los Angeles in 1853 and state treasurer in 1867) during the latter days of Spanish California, and its early years under American rule. The story of Ramona was, at the time of her visit, taking up Mrs. Jackson's thoughts, and, charmed with the quiet beauty of the home of the Coronel family, she expressed a wish to make it the background to her tale. Senor Coronel's wife, thereupon, told her of the Camulos rancho, saying it was the only hacienda in the country that remained true to the old life of Spanish times. There, she said, she would find the customs of the early days when California was still a pastoral and mission country, before the advent of the Americans overturned the old regime. There, were to be seen the making of olive oil, the manufacturing of Spanish wine, the sheep shearing by the Indians.

Attracted by Doña Mariana's account of the rancho, Mrs. Jackson, furnished with letters of introduction to Señora del Valle, the owner, made a visit to Camulos. The Senora was away at the time, but Mrs. Jackson was shown all due courtesy by the other members of the family, and with true Spanish kindness, was taken through, and shown in detail, the entire house and grounds. Nothing escaped her eye, and as she was here only two hours, her rare memory for detail displayed in Ramona, is little short of marvelous. The torn altar cloth is the best known and oftenest cited instance; but the Indian hollowed-out stones which the Señora used for flower-pots hanging from the veranda roof; the descriptions of life on the verandas of the patio; the preparations for dinner the night of Father Salvierderra's arrival; the deft touches, here and there and everywhere, are no less noteworthy of Mrs. Jackson's faculty of accurate observation and remembrance.

It is needless to say Mrs. Jackson was delighted with the place, and that she determined to make it the principal scene of her story. This she did, although never once making use of the name, Camulos; and during the ensuing months in New York City, busy with the writing of Ramona, her thoughts were much with the friends she had made during her stay in California, and with the beautiful home life of by-gone Spanish days she had witnessed at Camulos. While every visitor to California hears about Camulos as the early home of Ramona (although it is not once mentioned by name in the story), the general reader learns of it only through an account of a traveler's visit to the rancho, which is usually added to, as a sort of appendix, and bound up with, the story itself. It is an interesting little article, confirmatory of Mrs. Jackson's fidelity to realism in her exact descriptions of the rancho itself and the life led there.

Ramona achieved an instant success, and has maintained its place as the novel of Southern California to this day. Of course, on its appearance it was hailed as "The Great American Novel," like so many other works since, but it cannot lay claim to be that; for fine as it is as a story and as an artistic literary work, the representative American novel must be based on broader grounds than a story of such a confined section of our country as Southern California can give us. But when the American novel comes to be written, it is doubtful whether it will surpass in truth to the actual life depicted, or in the artistic and dramatic qualities shown by the author in her telling of this story.

Mrs. Jackson displayed remarkable insight into the character and racial traits of the several personages of her tale. The first and foremost property of the book is the picture of Spanish life as it was led in California fifty years ago, thirty years before Mrs. Jackson studied it. At the time of her visit, the Camulos house was about twenty-five years old, and the life, as led there, and conforming to the early Spanish California life, well established. The three principal Spanish characters — Ramona, Felipe and Señora Moreno — stand out, each in his or her own peculiar individuality, strongly and distinctly, as living beings, possessing all the attributes of human kind, but, what is more noticeable, with the true Spanish hereditary character. It is doubtful whether a Spanish or Mexican author of equal rank with "H. H." could have surpassed her in depicting his own countrymen. Ramona and Alessandro are the chief personages of the story, but the portrayal of Ramona is inferior to that of the Señora. The latter is the real heroine, and is limned with a master hand. The elements of strength and weakness alternating in her character, and shown in her daily life, are consummately brought before the reader, and make of her a fascinating portrait.

Ramona, "the blessed child," as Father Salvierderra and the nuns at the convent used to call her, is a lovely heroine, half Indian, half Scotch (by birth — her father having been a Scotsman; but from her lifelong environment, she acquires the Spanish temperamental attributes) with traits belonging to both the Indian and the Spaniard; but she is less well defined as an indigenous type — partly, perhaps, because she is neither fully of the Indian race nor, by blood, at all a Spaniard; partly because she is merely a loving and lovable young woman — than is the Señora. Her life at Camulos was a long succession of happy, sunny days, the best sort of preparation for her later experiences, hard and bitter as many of them were; but through all of which she showed the effect of her early training received from the nuns, supplemented by the loving oversight of her spiritual advisor, Father Salvierderra. Such love for, and devotion to, Alessandro as Ramona showed and felt — pure, true, disinterested — make of her a heroine the like of whom we have too few in these days of all kinds of purpose and problem novels, good, bad and indifferent, but principally bad.

Felipe acts chiefly as a foil to Alessandro, in one way, to his mother, the Señora, in another. He is so unlike either the one or the other that he acquires the larger portion of the reader's interest in him for that very reason. He is less typically Spanish than his mother, but he is placed at a disadvantage, first, from his illness, subsequently, after Ramona has left Camulos with Alessandro, to whom she becomes all in all, when he falls somewhat into the background. But Felipe redeems himself from whatever weakness he may have shown earlier in the story by his long, heart-sickening search for Ramona, and his tender devotion to her after she is found. Yet Felipe has those traits of the softer, more kindly side of the Spanish character, which make of him a true impersonation of the typical early Californian.

The Indian Alessandro — on whose account the story was written, and around whom it revolves — is in total contrast to the other principal characters. And in Alessandro Mrs. Jackson gives full rein to her indignation at the wrong done the Indians of Southern California; and shows to the reader, in the guise of story, what was the truth in many places at the time when Spanish California became American, and, as is usual in such changes, the poor suffered the most. In this case it was the Indians, and the story of Temecula, its seizure by the American settlers, and the driving away of its original — its rightful — owners, the Indians, as told in Ramona, is almost literally true.

However prejudiced against the Indians the reader may be, however strongly he may believe that "the only good Indian is a dead Indian," he cannot read the story of Alessandro and his wrongs, knowing that it is taken from actual verity, without becoming convinced, spite of himself, that there is some good in an Indian, even while he is alive. And if his indignation at the wrong inflicted on the Indians be not aroused by the reading of this tale, he is callous indeed. Alessandro has all the attributes of the Indian nature, untainted by the lower traits of the civilised man, which are so frequently imposed on the aborigine when the two races come into contact. But in addition to the natural Indian character, Alessandro had had the benefit of the limited education that was to be acquired at the missions in their palmy days. This was small at the best, but, such as it was, Alessandro had made the most of his opportunities, handicapped, as he was, by his hereditary Indian nature. And the result of the mission system, as illustrated by this particular specimen, shows what the fathers could, and did, do, when they had the best Indian material to work upon.

But however greatly Ramona may be praised, however highly the story may be ranked as an artistic work, one must not permit himself to be blinded to the fact that, as a strictly true picture of the character of the mission Indian of Southern California, it is overdrawn and exaggerated. Not that there were not Indians at the various missions civilised, tamed and Christianised by the loving, faithful care of the fathers, who were the equal of Alessandro in true, manly character. That this was so is not to be gainsaid. But the reader of Ramona gets the impression that this product was quite the usual result; that the Alessandros to be found among the Indians were so common as to be the rule. This is far from the truth. Alessandro was so rare an exception to the general run of mission Indian, even those deriving the greatest benefit from their religious training, that probably not more than one or two Indians, who were Alessandro's equal, could have been found at any of the missions at any time during the period of their greatest influence for good. Yet, notwithstanding this, the general result of the religious teaching of the whole number of the Indians was high and greatly satisfactory to the fathers; so that, though there were very few Alessandros evolved from the mission system, nearly every Indian was lifted to a far higher and better plane of life than that of the untutored aborigine.

Another criticism of the story may be made, this time on the side of its artistic quality alone. The life in Southern California of those days, when the country was still unchanged by the advent of the Americans, is so beautifully set forth before the reader; and the two elements — Spanish and Indian — alike in many respects, so finely molded and blended into one harmonious tale that the result is perfect. But as soon as a new element is introduced — the American — there is felt a discordance which is very pronounced. Mrs. Hartsel and the Hyers are not in themselves unworthy personages: Aunt Ri, particularly, with her quaint, original remarks, gains the affection of the reader in no small degree; but they do not mingle well with the other elements of the story. The transition from one to the other is too violent to be quite satisfying, and one can hardly help wishing that Mrs. Jackson had written the latter part of the book without their help. It is true enough — this queer mingling of Spanish, Indian and American — to the actual life of the time; but the story might have been just as true, and, probably, much more satisfactory, had it been confined to the Spanish and aboriginal elements. Mrs. Jackson, no doubt, felt that, as a sermon, the story gained by the introduction of the Americans; but it injures the story, as a story.

Mrs. Jackson was not invariably correct in her Spanish proper names. Father Salvierderra's name should be Zalvidea, a name Mrs. Jackson, getting it by ear alone, changed into the form familiar in the book. A more noticeable error is Alessandro's name. This is Italian: the correct Spanish form is Alejandro. The writer has seen it stated that Mrs. Jackson used the Italian, instead of the Spanish, form for the sake of the more euphonious sound. If this were her reason, the substitution of the foreign form was, on the whole, a wise one. It is easier of pronunciation to the untrained tongue. Everyone can pronounce Alessandro correctly, whether familiar with Italian or not; but Alejandro is sure to be mispronounced by all unacquainted with Spanish, and the mispronunciation of this name, with the Spanish pronounced as in English, would be most distressing. The letter j in Spanish has the sound of the English h.

However, these are minor defects and detract but little from the tale as a work of art; nothing at all as a picture of the times. Ramona is by far the best story of Southern California which has yet been written ; and whether or not it be in future surpassed or equaled, it will ever hold its own place in the hearts of all who love the country, as well as of those who love a pure, simple tale beautifully and sympathetically told. Reading it, one seems almost to live the life of those days; while the various places described in the story are brought before the reader who has visited them with almost startling vividness. Who would not have enjoyed that life so close to Nature's heart? As Mrs. Jackson says: "It was a picturesque life, with more of sentiment and gayety in it, more also that was truly dramatic, more romance, than will ever be seen again on those sunny shores. The aroma of it all lingers there still; industries and inventions have not yet slain it; it will last out its century, — in fact, it can never be quite lost so long as there is left standing one such house as the Señora Moreno's."

So lifelike and vivid are the characters in Ramona, so realistic and true to local color are Mrs. Jackson's descriptions of places and scenes in Southern California, that it is no wonder Alessandro and Ramona have been said, time and time again, to have been taken from real life. A dozen times have the real Alessandro and Ramona, the originals of those in the story, been found. If an old Indian woman, answering to the name of Ramona (a common name among the Spanish and the mission Indians) is found by some indefatigable explorer in an out-of-the-way Indian village, or on some lonely, deserted, rancho, the rumor at once goes the rounds that the genuine Ramona of the tale has been discovered. Less than two years ago, she was unearthed away back of Pala, an old squaw, almost too aged and feeble to move. Her name happened to be Ramona — that was all there was to it. It should be superfluous to say that all the characters, Ramona herself included, are entire fabrications of the author's brain. Mrs. Jackson had no one in mind serving as a model for any of the personages in her book.

May, 1900.

HELEN HUNT JACKSON & RAMONA

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Camulos Visit,
SoCal Observations
(Odell 1939)

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Portraits x2

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Full Text


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HHJ Gravesite 1912
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I Knew Ramona, by Jose Jesus Lopez
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Roberts Story 1886
Carter Story 1900/02
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"Narrow Trail" by Wyeth 1939
Story: Ventura Museum 1998
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